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August Miller, Deseret Morning News
Jeff and Sylvia Hessing of Boise take a photo of their daughter Amy and other family members after BYU graduation Thursday at the Marriott Center in Provo.

PROVO — In just five years, Jacob Durrant earned three degrees from Brigham Young University: Bachelor's degrees in mathematics and Portuguese, and a master's in physiology and developmental biology.

And he didn't just complete class requirements, either. He excelled.

Durrant maintained a 4.0 grade-point average while also participating in the university's honors program. Now, Durrant, who has been accepted into Harvard University, has his eye on medical and doctoral degrees, which he's thinking about pursuing concurrently.

Yet, it's compassion that drives Durrant's academics. He served an LDS Church mission in Brazil and worked for three months with doctors in poverty-stricken areas. That experience is a major reason he's interested in the medical field.

"I've seen a lot of suffering," Durrant said. "I know that one person can't change the world, but if he can make a difference in the lives of just a few, that's worthwhile. So much of the suffering in the developing world is caused by medically related issues."

Durrant's degrees were among 6,436 awarded on Thursday at BYU's commencement rites, during which graduates, as they begin the next chapter of their lives, were urged to remember to engage in the service of others.

"In short, where much is given to you, much is required," said Elder Earl C. Tingey, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Funds from the LDS Church, which owns and operates BYU, help subsidize student tuition, said Tingey, who also serves on BYU's Board of Trustees. While at BYU, he noted, all students took religion classes at the same time they studied other academic fields.

"Your life should reflect those gospel qualities in such a way that wherever you are and in whatever situation you find yourself, your life will be a reflection of the eternal principals of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the high ideals of Brigham Young University," he said.

Tingey also said that faith is the best antidote to fear.

He received a few laughs from the near-capacity Marriott Center when he described the fears of students when they apply to BYU, leave home, select major fields of study and face financial challenges of paying for school.

But as the graduates step into the world, he said, they can rely on the faith they developed at BYU. "Faith is belief plus action — in most cases, your action," he said.

Tingey cited numerous publications that have recently mentioned BYU's programs and students. When he referred to a Princeton Review study that rated BYU No. 1 in sobriety with a story headlined: "Got Milk?," the audience responded with cheers and applause.

Tingey also discussed a report that an increasing number of Americans in their early 20s try to stall adulthood responsibilities.

"The concerns of this article, which, unfortunately, describes an epidemic trend in some parts of the country, must never describe a graduate of Brigham Young University," he said.

BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson encouraged students to continue learning throughout their lives.

"As you know, this is central to our theology and also key to living an examined and fulfilling life," he said.


E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com